The Little Engine That Could is an all-time classic children’s picture book. It begins with a train carrying various gifts for children- toys, dolls, zoo animals, fruit and other things. Eventually the original train breaks down and the toys and zoo animals look for another train to help them make their delivery over the hill. After being turned down by three trains, finally a small blue train helps them over the hill. During the train’s ascension to the top of the hill it repeats the immortal phrase “I think I can” again and again. The story ends with the small blue train succeeding in its brave attempt to get the rest of the cargo over the hill. This is a great children’s book because it teaches kids that no matter what size shape or color they are, they can do anything if they put their minds to it. The pictures in this novel embody the “innocence is bliss” themes that we mentioned in class. They show colorful trains chugging through a big green meadow and all the characters— even the animals, the fruit and the trains— are smiling. This book illustrates how beautiful and untarnished the world may seem through a child’s eye. This bright outlook on life and appreciation for the little things is also present in the poem “The Schoolboy” in which the speaker says
“I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me.
Oh, what sweet company!” (Blake)
During the time of the enlightenment, the way children were reared into adulthood was very different from the implications The Little Engine That Could makes about the subject. During the enlightenment, John Locke wrote about his opinion on the subject of rearing children. Some of the ideal that he stressed was the necessity of children learning virtue, manors, and to dance. Locke also felt that children should be kept in the presence of their parents as often as possible. Locke also brings up new ideals in child rearing when he suggests that parenting of the future will require less corporal punishment opposed to simple psychological steering. One defining point of Locke’s paper is the fact that he mentions that instead of children being forced to do this or that, they “must not be hinder’d from being children, or from playing, or doing as children should be allowed to.” This reminds me of The Little Engine That Could because since the engine was small it represented a child. The fact that the engine put its mind to accomplishing an individual goal and achieved that goal without any help showed that kids should be allowed to set out to accomplish their own goals.
The Little Engine That Could sends a positive message to its readers and influences them in an uplifting and benefitting way. In Strasburger’s “Children, Adolescents and the Media” he talks about how children are subliminally affected by the media and pop culture in today’s society. He talks about the ways kids can be negatively influenced by the things they are exposed to at such a young age as opposed to previous years. In a way, because of this change in the learning environment of today’s youth, they are in a new stage of enlightenment themselves. Strasburger open’s his work by quoting professor Joshua Meyrowitz when he says, “Parents could once easily mold their young children’s upbringing by speaking and reading to children only about those things they wished their children to be exposed to, but today’s parents must battle with thousands of competing images and ideas over which they have little direct control.” Although this may be true, and as Strasburger suggests in his writing, the children of today are growing up in a much different world than that of our grandparents, parents, or even us for that matter, I still believe that parents can strongly influence their children with grassroots teaching techniques and by teaching their kids essential lessons of life. Some of which, can be found in The Little Engine That Could. Since The Little Engine That Could does not include the vulgar, sometimes sexist or pornographic themes that other popular media might I still believe this book is valuable to today’s youth. Some of which, can be found in The Little Engine That Could.